Sports nutrition for the millennial generation

New research reveals sports nutrition benefits of L-carnitine resonate with active millennials

L-carnitine is a nutrient required by the body to metabolise fat. Its primary role is to transport long-chain fatty acids to our cells, so they can be broken down to generate energy.

The efficacy and high quality of L-carnitine as a dietary supplement ingredient are well documented, and it is strongly associated with benefits in the area of sports nutrition. It is included in many supplements designed to enhance performance and accelerate recovery following exercise and is popular among athletes looking for an edge in training and in competition.

Increasing the awareness of L-carnitine’s benefits among sporty millennials represents a significant untapped business opportunity for dietary supplement manufacturers. That’s the key take-away from an exclusive online survey commissioned by Switzerland-based company Lonza, which produces and markets the premium Carnipure L-carnitine ingredient.

The sports nutrition market

Sports nutrition is a huge market, worth €21.9 billion a year globally in 2014, and is set to grow by 8.3% a year between now and 2020 (P&S Market Research, 2015). Within the category, we believe the most attractive consumer demographic for dietary supplements companies is millennials – typically classified as people born between 1980 and 2000.

This generation is health-conscious, active and has disposable income. At Lonza, we view millennials as a high priority target for sports nutrition supplements. These consumers are committed to optimising their wellness through regular exercise and healthy eating. They value dietary supplements for the benefits they offer and tend to be discerning shoppers who seek out cost-effective products that offer them the assurance of quality and efficacy.

In sports nutrition supplements, these features translate into a group of consumers who appreciate products made with ingredients that are effective. They are also willing to engage and learn about new ingredients, and try them if they believe they offer something that will benefit them.

The study

Independent researchers questioned 202 consumers in the United Kingdom, aged between 18 and 35, who exercise at least three times a week. They were questioned about their attitudes and behaviours in terms of dietary supplement usage and, in particular, L-carnitine.

Researchers found that 39% of the consumers surveyed were current users of supplements containing L-carnitine, and that these respondents consumed L-carnitine predominantly for sports nutrition-related benefits such as exercise recovery, weight management, increased energy, muscle building and improved endurance. Meanwhile, 52% of respondents stated they never used L-carnitine with 81% of this group saying they had never heard of it. However, once the benefits of L-carnitine were explained to them, 76% of non-users said they were now more likely to introduce it to their dietary supplement regime.

Supported by science

The body of science behind the benefits of L-carnitine is already compelling and continues to grow. Research has progressed on two main fronts. First, supported by Lonza, researchers from Nottingham University’s Queens Medical Centre, headed by Professor Paul Greenhaff, have for many years now been exploring ways in which we can increase levels of L-carnitine in the muscles through supplementation. Dr Francis Stephens, lead author of the studies, has shown that when combined with higher loads of carbohydrate consumption, there is an increase in muscle L-carnitine uptake.1

In parallel, a separate line of research has looked into the benefits of L-carnitine supplementation for recovery after exercise. Scientists have hypothesised that L-carnitine is present in the body’s smallest blood vessels (the microcirculation) and that supplementation prevents depletion of L-carnitine stores.

When the blood is able to supply more nutrients and oxygen to muscle tissues, hypoxia (a normal lack of oxygen associated with exercise) is lessened thanks to the assumed presence of L-carnitine in the surrounding tissues. In addition, the release of free radicals naturally generated during exercise can be kept to normal levels.

Furthermore, studies by the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory have shown that markers of metabolic stress are increased as a result of exercise and that supplementation with Carnipure L-carnitine can help mitigate these markers. Objective, direct assessment of muscle tissue disruption during exercise via magnetic resonance imaging indicated the ability of L-carnitine to recover from tissue damage related to hypoxia normally occurring during exercise. This was confirmed by reported decrease in muscle soreness in the supplemented group.2–4

New opportunity

Lonza has been monitoring the recognition of L-carnitine for many years. Their work has shown that consumers have become better educated with time and that the value of education should not be overlooked. A pilot study initiated in 2013 by Lonza in Japan explored how accompanying supplement intake with education and motivational training affected subjects’ performance when exercising.

It was found that the study group that received both motivation training and information about L-carnitine, together with their daily supplements, achieved better results than any of the other three groups – who only received the supplement or the educational advice or nothing.

Jeff Della Valle, Marketing Manager Nutrition and a co-author of the report, said: 'Our market research highlights a unique new business opportunity among non-users of L-carnitine. After some aided awareness of the supplement’s benefits, these consumers were asked if they would be more likely to use it in future and, encouragingly, more than three quarters of them said they would. This finding means dietary supplement companies have an opportunity to tap into this goodwill towards L-carnitine with high-quality products backed by the trusted Carnipure brand.'

Ilya Zhivkovich, Global Head of Marketing Lonza Nutrition, added: 'L-Carnitine has a great story to tell. It is effective, safe and – as demonstrated by the results of our consumer survey – offers valuable benefits that resonate with today’s millennial consumers. Dietary supplement manufacturers and marketers can leverage the strong positive feelings millennials have about L-carnitine and the benefits it provides.'

Significant potential

The results of the survey show that millennials value the proven effectiveness and quality of the ingredients contained in their supplements. And when it relates to L-carnitine, they feel the benefits truly complement their active lifestyle.

Lonza’s research demonstrates that active millennials who are current users of L-carnitine consider the proven effectiveness of their supplements to be the main influencer in making their purchase decision. Almost all of these consumers take L-carnitine immediately before or after their workout and they shop in health stores and online.

We can therefore conclude that this group of consumers will appreciate a brand such as Carnipure L-carnitine because of the decades of research and public scientific studies that are available to support its benefits.

However, there is still an opportunity to educate current users further. In the survey, we learned that 54% of this group take L-carnitine 5 days a week and 76% take it at least three times per week. This shows there is room for improvement in terms of frequency of use. Research shows that long-term continuous supplementation helps to increase stores of L-carnitine in the muscles — so daily supplementation is recommended for optimal benefits. Carnipure L-carnitine is regarded as safe for daily intake.

References

1. F.B. Stephens, et al., J. Appl. Physiol. 102(3), 1065–1070 (2007).

2. J.S. Volek, et al., Am. J. Cardiol. 102, 1413–1417 (2008).

3. B.A. Spiering, et al., J. Strength Cond. Res. 22(4), 1130–1135 (2008).

4. W.J. Kraemer, et al., J. Strength Cond. Res. 17(3), 455–462 (2003).

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